This book investigates how representations of Black Africans have been negotiated over time in Arabic literature and film.
The book offers direct readings of a representative selection of primary texts, shedding light on the divergent ways these authors understood race across different genres, including pre-Islamic classical poetry, polemical essays, travel narratives, novels, and films. Starting with the first recognized Black-Arab poet Antara Ibn Shaddad (580 C.E.) and extending right up to the present day, the works examined illuminate the changes in consciousness that attended Black Africans as they negotiated their position in Arab society. In a twist to Edward Said’s Orientalism, the book argues that scholars in the Middle East and North Africa generated a hierarchical representational discourse themselves, one equally predicated on the Self-Other binary. However, it also demonstrates that Arab racial discourse is not a linear rhetoric but changes according to history, political circumstances, and ideologies such as tribal politics, the Shu’ubiyya movement, nationalism, and imperialism. Blacks and Arabs have had tangled relationships that are based not only on race but also on kinship and solidarity due to trade and other types of connections.
Challenging fundamental assumptions of Black Diaspora studies and postcolonial studies, this book will be of interest to scholars of the African diaspora, Arabic literature, Middle East studies, and critical race studies.
Table of Contents
Theoretical Introduction: The evolution of the idea of race in the Middle East and North Africa: Classical paradigms
1. Black Poets’ Defensive Rhetorical Acts: The Example of Antara Ibn Shaddad
2. Writing Identity: Dissident Discourse in Shu’ubiyya Black Poetry
3. In Defense of Blackness: Patterns of Argumentation in Al-Jahiz’s Fakhr Al-Sudan-Ala Al-Baydan
4. Identity Politics and the Constructions of Blackness in North African Medieval Travel Narratives
5. Writing the Egyptian Imperial Narrative: Rifa’a Al-Tahtawi’s Representation of Sudan and the Sudanese
6. The Representation of Blackness in Maghrebian Literature and Film
Touria Khannous is an Associate Professor at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, USA.